Saturday, October 15, 2005

Daisy Cutters For Jeebus

Our good friend Craig at The Crazy Years points us to an excellent Harper's profile which neatly encapsulates the blustery hypocrisy foisted upon us by the publicly pious.

The apocalyptics may not be wrong. One could make a perfectly serious argument that the policies of Tom DeLay are in fact hastening the End Times. But there’s nothing particularly Christian about this hastening. The creed of Tom DeLay—of Tim LaHaye and his Left Behind books, of Pat Robertson’s “The Antichrist is probably a Jew alive in Israel today”—ripened out of the impossibly poetic imagery of the Book of Revelation. Imagine trying to build a theory of the Constitution by obsessively reading and rereading the Twenty-fifth Amendment, and you’ll get an idea of what an odd approach this is. You might be able to spin elaborate fantasies about presidential succession, but you’d have a hard time working backwards to “We the People.” This is the contemporary version of Archbishop Ussher’s seventeenth-century calculation that the world had been created on October 23, 4004 B.C., and that the ark touched down on Mount Ararat on May 5, 2348 B.C., a Wednesday. Interesting, but a distant distraction from the gospel message.

The apocalyptics, however, are the lesser problem. It is another competing (though sometimes overlapping) creed, this one straight from the sprawling megachurches of the new exurbs, that frightens me most. Its deviation is less obvious precisely because it looks so much like the rest of the culture. In fact, most of what gets preached in these palaces isn’t loony at all. It is disturbingly conventional. The pastors focus relentlessly on you and your individual needs. Their goal is to service consumers—not communities but individuals: “seekers” is the term of art, people who feel the need for some spirituality in their (or their children’s) lives but who aren’t tightly bound to any particular denomination or school of thought. The result is often a kind of soft-focus, comfortable, suburban faith.

Exactly. This is the true triumph of the wingnuts. After all, statistically most people are of at least average intelligence and reasonably sane. How to co-opt them into buying this nonsense? Make it a consumer choice. I hadn't been able to put my finger on it so well, but that is really my primary misgiving about these damned "megachurches" -- spirituality is not a fashion statement, nor is it a team sport. Really, it is (or should be) the ultimate game of solitaire, in a way. Sure, you probably want someone with a solid background in spiritual studies to bounce ideas off of, seek a little guidance here and there, etc. And fellow congregants can be beneficial for the same thing -- or at least provide examples of what works and what doesn't.

But for the most part, while you may have a support system for your earthly concerns and all, the point of real spirituality is that you're supposed to learn and think, and figure most of this out for yourself. The politically- (and financially-) motivated megachurch preacher is not supposed to be doing all the sorting and winnowing for you. That is not learning; that's regurgitating. Multiplied by 20,000 drones, that is not a mass learning experience, that's an event, that's a mob getting on the same page, which is exactly how the control freaks that run the megachurches -- and more importantly, the politicians they're in cahoots with -- want it. You think Tom DeLay's dick doesn't get harder than Chinese arithmetic when he sees 20,000 faithful voters swaying unthinkingly to whatever comes out of the pulpit jockey's headset mike?

So while we (and by "we", I mean me, but also many commentators who regularly take potshots at the wingnuts) spread prodigious lead at the looniest, we really have to keep a careful eye on the seemingly normal. These Stepford exurbanites are where the money is, hence it's where the real political activism takes hold. These are the people who are keeping the cracker barrel in business. And they think through their political issues about as carefully as they've thought out their spiritual path. (Which is to say, if you need Tom DeLay or any of his Brylcreem acolytes to explain or affirm anything to you, you simply haven't done enough reading and critical thinking, period.)

So keeping that particular demographic in mind, let us turn to another part of Craig's comment, one which I had been thinking about as well:

As to Chimpy and his video backup singers...has anyone in the media even asked why the thing was televised to begin with? If he wants to talk to soldiers and really hear what they think, it seems privacy would be in order, as I will assert that no soldier can tell you what he really thinks in TV-friendly language.

Since this little PR stunt, I have taken a bit of scarce spare time, and checked out a few righty blogs to see what their take on this is. As expected, it is somewhere between denial and delusion. Some have taken pains to smear the Today show, who had the temerity to discuss the prepping and rehearsing of this sham, because Today show cupcake Michelle Kosinski got caught sitting in a canoe in a flooded New Jersey town as two men sloshed past her, in what was clearly ankle-deep water. This sort of reasoning, if applied consistently to the apparent rigors of conservative thought and practice, provides some illumination as to why we are where we are right now.

This just in, Righty McRighterton -- even your hated Olbermann showed the Kosinski clip and had a good laugh. Doesn't matter; she's fucking hot, and her career will just keep chugging forward until she marries up into the incestuous upper echelon, where Richard Cohen was banging Kati Marton while she was married to Peter Jennings, but before he (Cohen) hitched up with newsmilf Meredith Vieira. And Marton is now married to uber-diplomat Richard Holbroooke. Got all that? Glad you didn't become a "legitimate" journamalist?

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Dear Leader's fumbling, stumbling, mumbling PR stunt with his favorite props. The righties have decided to take the tack of calling into question the very legitimacy of the question of whether they were prepped, whether the event was scripted. Well, Alison Barber, the Pentagon official seen on the infamous pre-sham satellite feed, was the one using the word "scripted". And any honest observer of the actual event cannot but come away with the clear impression that the dialogue was stilted, the recitation of figures rote and rehearsed, and that it was due to more than just the usual satellite delay.

And it is not unnoticed that the only non-white soldier was the token Iraqi. Do I have to go digging through statistical abstracts to find actual numbers that demonstrate the racial mix of the US military, the Army in particular, or can we take it as a given that this was not an honest cross-section of our troops?

And there's a reason for this, just as there's a reason this thing was trotted out in front of us in the first place. As Craig pointed out, there was no reason for this dog-and-pony show. If Bush truly wanted an honest assessment of the troops on the ground, he could have commissioned a survey. He could have had generals anonymously poll troops. He could even have done some legwork and research himself, compiling facts and anecdotes, gathering and analyzing data, and presenting it to us in a clear, unambiguous manner.

Bwaaaahahahahaha! Had you going there for a moment, didn't I? For Bush, learning interferes with nappy time and bikey time, talkin' with Jeebus and deluding himself into thinking that there aren't at least 10,000 people in the legal community infinitely more qualified than the Church Lady for that fucking SCOTUS seat.

So clearly the rationale for this obviously scripted and rehearsed event was to put a PR face on Bush's folly. There is simply no way an honest person could see that tape and arrive at another conclusion. Bush's complete lack of preparedness and knowledge showed, and the leading nature of the questions, as well as the disastrous pacing of the answer made it obvious to anyone with half a clue what was going on.

The problem is, it will still work as planned on the people it was designed to work on. It wasn't meant for you or me in the first place; it was meant to bolster the base.

As such, they can probably tell themselves "Mission Accomplished", even though in all practicality, that staged bullshit -- just like all of Bush's cherry-picked crowds and carefully staged photo-ops -- didn't accomplish a single goddamn thing to help those troops, or this country.

And for that, they can all go straight to hell.


Arabella said...

Your post is the is a cogent analysis of the infatile America's so-called faith. Nobody wants to believe that the gravy train to cadgeville is about to come off the tracks. These people will never accept that they were willingly duped,

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vonKreedon said...

Your first part about the commodity fetishizing of religion was very perceptive. We are such a cosumption defined culture that everything we do down to what should be the most personal morality is at the least tinged by commiditization. "I consume, therefore I am what I am."

But your piece then barely touches what is really scary about the commidity fetishizing of morality; once humans give up their moral compasses to an outside authority we are capable of atrocious behavior that non-sociopathic humans would never agree to on their own. Humans in the grips of groupthink are the worlds most terrifying entities.

Craig Heath said...

Yes, they can and will go straight to hell for all this - but they will drag us into that lake of fire with them.

Everything is a "media stunt" with these people - and to their intended audience - even the war itself. It's all just a reality show, interrupted by commercials and sports playoffs. None of it is real to them, and that's the way the puppeteers want it.

If you can't feel the pain, you can't even conceive of taking action. So we put a few smiling (white) GI's on the screen "talking" with the Prez. We put the pain of spiritual searching into a 12-volume CD audio program with an accompanying booklet.

We put life into a mall shop, on sale, discounted, two-for-one - everything must go!

beachmike said...

You all should thank GOD that you live somewhere that you can express these opinions and not wind up "missing" several days later, never to be seen again....

And those set up soldiers are part of the reason why!!!!

vonKreedon said...

BeachMike is of course correct, but equally irrelevant to the point at hand, except on the off chance that Mike is noting how poorly served our soldiers are by being manipulated for such partisan purposes.

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Craig Heath said...

I would challenge beachmike to the extent of asking when was the last time the US military actually fought for our freedom? The most recent examples I can cite are all civilian - the civil rights and peace movements, the voting rights act, anti-discriminiation laws, disabled access codes, court cases affirming freedom of speech and assembly, etc.

I think it's just a distracting ploy to keep trotting out the old "we're free because of our soldiers" trope. Revolutionary War soldiers? Yes. War of 1812 soldiers? Yes. After that, I'd argue that the nature and purpose of American wars is at least debatable.

Not to mention that beachmike urged us to thank GOD. Even IF all our freedoms sprang from American military action, what the hell does the Big Grouch in the Sky have to do with it?

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